A VHS Time Warp


Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you and sometimes, it arrives in time to help.

Let’s hit the pause button.

We used to own an obscure Disney movie that was part of an extensive VHS collection. It lived in a box labeled “Mommy’s Sanity”. We dipped into it so frequently that my two year old could operate the VCR on his own. I should have asked him to program it so the time displayed correctly. Too late now.

Some of you may have seen “So Dear to My Heart” at one time or another. I suppose its popularity faded as fast as an actual Disney movie with morals – and Bible stories! – in it would. It’s as preachy as Pollyanna and as bathed in buttermilk as Charlotte’s Web. You might be wondering whether my kidlets picked up some nice manners or learned a few lessons on how to respect their elders.

But no.

Fast forward about sixteen years.

My baby boys are all grown up and can drive cars and everything, although I feel in my bones that driving the VCR was far less dangerous. A friend of theirs is flying into San Diego and my boys insist that they are going to pick him up at the airport. I attempt logic first.

“No problemo. I’ll drive you guys and you can load him into the car. Just ignore me, pretend I’m the chauffeur.”

“No, mom. So uncool. We don’t need a driver. We can do it ourselves.”

“You’ve never been to the airport to pick someone up before. The place is a multilayered pretzel on steroids. You’ll take the wrong exit and get all turned around and the clock will be ticking while your friend stands on the curb wondering where you are and YOU NEVER SHOW UP.”

“Mom. Jeez.” Eye rolls, pats on the head, and the casual mention of senility because apparently mama has forgotten that they are MEN and can DO this and just hand over the KEY.

“Look. Boys. You don’t have smart phones. I’ve never seen you read a road map. The place is crawling with one way streets. Just call me when you get lost. I’ll talk you in from where ever you are stuck and get you there, okay? Easy, peasy. Don’t panic. Just pull over in a safe location and call me. Please.”

Three hours of phone silence go by. I hold my head high because this very fact proves beyond doubt that they are, indeed, men. I am that super cool mom who refuses to call them and check in. Instead, I pace the house and stare for the millionth time at the map of the San Diego airport.

“Just turn on Laurel,” I tell it.

When the men return victorious, I pat their little egos on the head and take my key back. I’ll check the paint job and the gas tank level later. There is loud banter as they proceed directly to the kitchen to attack the fridge and scatter its remains throughout my kingdom.

But later, in the shadows, a snitch tells me the story. He is both joyful and triumphant as he hits the rewind button.

“Mom. Remember that movie when we were kids? The one with the black sheep? And the kid wants to find honey? Remember that? Well, we got totally lost downtown today and we pulled over to discuss our options when a plane went over our head. So we decided to follow the planes.”

“Follow the planes?”

“Yeah. Like the movie. He tells the kid to just find a bee and follow it home. That’s where the hive is. So, we just kept turning on whichever road went the same direction as the planes. And we found the airport!”

Now, isn’t that a dilly?

School Jitters

“What if they don’t like me?”

She shifted around on the plastic blue booth seat, then fidgeted with her fork.

“I bought a really cute skirt for tomorrow. It’s cheerful.”

“Great idea. You will brighten up the room when you walk in.”

She slumped a little. But we weren’t here to discuss posture.

“I got so much stuff. I spent a lot of money. What if I forgot the one super important thing that I don’t know I needed?”

“You’ll be fine.” I scooped up bean dip with a fat tortilla chip and managed to get the whole thing into my mouth at once, rendering it useless but happy. “You were at this school last year,” I mumbled, “‘t’s not your first rodeo.”

“There’s gonna be a weird kid in the class, I know it. That one kid that waits until we’re all doing silent reading and then tips over his chair or starts tapping the desk or needs to go the bathroom a million times. Last year, kids kept moving things from my desk and it made me crazy.”

“Oh come on, it won’t be that bad. You will all get along great once you show up.”

“I can never sleep the night before the first day of school. I’ll have a headache. What if the alarm clock doesn’t go off and I’m late?”

“This happens every year. It’s just the jitters. You’ll love your class.”

Plates of fajitas, tacos, and a beautiful margarita arrived. Busy silence ensued because we have our priorities straight.

Then she took a long drink of lemon water and looked me in the eyes.

“Remember math?”

“Girl, you’re bringing up Common Core? I graduated as I recall. But I told you so. Well. I told America so. Or something like that, because if we would just stop doing a “new math” every five years and agree on one, single way of learning long division, we would all be rocket scientists by now.”

“I’m not sure anyone is learning anything. Every year there’s a new thing waiting for us and it’s nothing but tests and rushing and watching the clock until I get to go home.”

“You don’t have to tell me; you’ll be tested every five minutes! No crying.”

I looked at her for a beat, “And no cussing.”


“Okay fine, what about PE? Lunch? Do they even attempt music or art?”

“We might. I don’t suppose you want to come in and volunteer to teach it?”

We both got a little crazy in the eyes for a minute.

“Nope. Nopity nope. Like I said, I graduated. Everybody graduates sooner or later and there’s no going back.”

“Rub it in,” she frowned, “I only have…” She thought for a minute. I hoped she wasn’t using Common Core to figure it out. “…about a million more years to go.”

Stupid math. I took a drink.

She was shredding her napkin into tiny little confetti bits. “Even lunch is dumb. We used to always line up at the door in two lines. Boys and Girls. Last year we lined up in colors. Red and Blue. This year we’ll probably line up by attitudes: Good Kids and Tornadoes.”

“Take a few deep breaths. Smile. Introduce yourself. All the teachers and kids will love you.”

The bill was paid and we gathered our things to leave. I gave her a reassuring hug.

“You are the most organized, energetic, friendly person I know. You’re going to rock tomorrow. You are the Teacher. And you are changing the world.”

Moms Graduation Speech

As I ponder the idea of no longer being a participant in the public school system, the thought that I am rid of fund raisers, done with dirty basketball jerseys, shed of tracking a textbook assigned ten months ago and never used, and altogether destitute of paperwork to be filled out in triplicate with a blue ink pen…a single tear of pure joy glistens in my eye. My left eye. The one that twitches.

Let freedom ring.

I’d like to thank everyone who made this moment possible.

I could not have worn such a deep trench in the elementary school doorway, had not Hubby insisted that homeschooling was “not an option”. Thank you, Hubby, for challenging me to find a way to homeschool our kids anyway by bringing home sixteen years of creative projects for all 800 of the students I adopted there.

Thank you, Middle School Principal, for welcoming five siblings in a row, children who brought their bicycles with them instead of their mother, children who learned the value of a dollar by hustling duct tape wallets, the value of deodorant after gym class, and the value of functional stall doors in a bathroom. We learned there’s no place like home after all.

Shout out to my firstborn for teaching me that we all learn in our own ways during high school. Some of us learn while sitting in the back row, staring out a window, and doodling on the homework. We learn that teachers are furious when they call you out in front of the class and you actually know the answers.

Second born, thank you for becoming fluent in Spanish so that I don’t need to be. It’s as entertaining as the German, Russian, and whale your siblings pretend to speak. You taught me that there’s no such thing as too many boxes full of awards.

Middle child, my never-in-a-hurry-why-do-you-want-to-rush-stuff one, thank you for waiting until two weeks to graduating to decide that you actually did want to attend college. I think your degree in “Communication” is as authentic as the panic attack I had.

I appreciate the effort it took, oh fourth one, to move to a new high school, forsaking the legacy of our family reputation to create a name for yourself. You played varsity sports as a freshman, losing every single game for a year, and ended your senior year with mono. You taught me gumption. One of us deserves a gold sticker.

And now, the last man standing, he who had to grow a sense of humor at birth, the one who had no idea his vision was bad until twelve tender years of age, the man who can perform quantum physics yet struggles with a pencil and long division, is poised on the platform, prepared to join his siblings in the world of adults, so long as there’s no laundry involved.

Thank you for doing your homework, love. Even if I think it’s cheating to do “research” from your couch instead of fighting classmates over the last three reference books in an actual library a day before the term paper is due. Sorry about that dopamine addiction. We all thought educating through an iPad was a good idea four years ago.

I’m so happy. I’m so blessed. I’m so tired.

I hope I can make it through the ceremony.

In conclusion, an Honorary Mention goes out to my fellow moms. Yes, that award given to our kids at school assemblies, recognizing that they have been showing up and breathing in and out all day. The one that reminds us that we are all winners.

To the girlfriends who stood by me during Common Core Math and the common cold; those who heard my battle cries and administered hot tea and hugs. Thank you for reminding me that the school system with its trappings and traps, is temporary after all. Our educations are priceless. And our possibilities are endless.

Let’s do this.

If a Gun Walks Onto Campus

Before the beginning of a school year, a mandatory meeting is held that covers the idea of what to do if a gun walks onto campus. Everyone from cafeteria workers to the janitor attends. Not halfway through the meeting, many are in tears. It’s inconceivable that a teacher might end up taking a life to protect themselves and their students.

The burden on school staff to maintain “a safe and secure environment” for students is heavy and unsung.

I imagine that people train to become teachers because they have the gift of teaching. Of leading young minds to new places and rejoicing with them over the growth of a school year. They certainly don’t become teachers to get rich or because they like job security.

What other profession receives a yearly “pink slip” along with the assurance that “very likely” they will be rehired in two months? But no promises. What other profession balances Common Core, administration, gangs, parents, class sizes increases, grades, students, budgets, politics, sex, standardized testing, religion, cell phones, puberty, attitudes, drugs, feelings, sports, and glitter glue? You know, sometimes in a single day.

It’s something no one wants to consider and unfortunately, many communities have already experienced. I don’t believe anyone decides to go into the teaching profession thinking they will also act as a body guard. Or worse. Because what if the gunman is also one of the students you teach?

Where are the days we only worried about earthquakes, pop quizzes, and whether our outfits were cool?

Today’s message is short and to the point: hug your kids. Thank your teachers.

Read this first. Can you even?

What schools are working with: training.

Should teachers be armed? The debate.

What kids may be thinking about it: view.

Resources that teachers use: words for processing it.

Are the schools ready? Is yours?

Psalm 141:10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by in safety.

The Forgetful Files is a safe, supportive space exploring different life challenges and big questions with courage, kindness, humor, and practicality. Please join the conversation by offering your unique perspective!

There Be Bullies

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.

This month, we are focussing on issues in the school system (and this means any school system: homeschooling, charters, etc are not exempt) that are prevalent, insidious and hard for us to talk about with our kids.

Bullying has been around since Cain and Abel, but if Eve had given them smart phones I think they could have avoided going out into the field altogether and Cain could have ruined his brother from the comfort of his couch.

What this means for today’s kids is a perceived power imbalance (which is what sells technology in the first place) so magnified that the result, more times than we want to look at, is death. Death of an idea, death of self-worth, death of a child. Please stop right now and call, text, message, hug, or high-five a kid. It doesn’t have to be your kid. And you don’t need a reason. Every kid needs that little ping of positivity because – people listen up – we are fighting an undercover avalanche of insidious bullying.

And you count. I’ll wait while you send it….

According to my many teacher friends, schools are educating kids about proper web use and ethics. They know it’s hard for some kids to admit to being bullied, so it’s discussed regularly in the classroom. Some teachers have an app that can check a kid’s iPad at a moments notice to see if it’s being used appropriately. They have counselors, social workers, and technology staff and partner with police and programs for nonviolence and peace. The message they are sending out is: “Bullying is not right. Everyone deserves a safe place to be in school.”

But of course, there’s a flip side: how do you distinguish between bully behavior and normal, age-appropriate immaturity, or even teasing between two children who both think it’s funny? The “bully” label is easily triggered in students and parents alike and they expect dramatic reactive steps on the part of school staff, regardless of the circumstances. (Here’s my fun story on that.)

Usually a quick, real-time intervention by the teacher, having kids apologize or just a stern talking-to, resolves many incidents. Seasoned teachers definitely know the difference and they also know their students personalities.

But the teacher is not you, the parent. (Unless of course you are homeschooling like Eve was and we are praying for you. Get yourself a favorite aunt who will take your kid for ice cream and have this conversation.)

You, the parent, should also be using real-time intervention by talking to your kids about when they were bullied and also when they bullied someone else. The answers are perhaps not so important as the process of opening the discussion. We all have to find ways to get along on the planet and this is a good place to practice the conversation. Earn their honesty by trusting them to find solutions along with you. Suggest ways they can hand out those little pings of positivity, too.

Conversation Prompts:

  1. Technology is just a tool and you control the “off” button. No one can access you via technology unless you allow them to. Others can block you, too, if you lose their trust.
  2. Bullying can be physical, emotional, or verbal. Harassment or intimidation via technology is called cyberbullying. Look up your school policy on it and read it together.
  3. Make an action plan as a family. Consider and act out scenarios where you are the target, the witness, and the bully in turn. How do you feel? What can you say? What will you do?
  4. Restorative Circles will give you the dialogue you need, and here is the other side of that with examples.
  5. Find resources on stopbullying.gov.
  6. Find more resources from the national PTA here.

“Love your enemies as yourself” Lev. 19:18

The Forgetful Files is a safe, supportive space exploring different life challenges and big questions with courage, kindness, humor, and practicality. Please join the conversation by offering your unique perspective!

Dusting Off the Imagination

When I was a child, imagination was my biggest and best toy.

That’s because before Tiger Moms and internet, there was The Backyard.

All the cool kids had one.

I climbed up the rickety stairs over our garage and could just make out Dead Man’s Island off the San Diego coast. Its hills form the perfect outline of a body floating face up.

In my mind it was full of cannibals or wild animals or pirates. Someday I was going to go there in a rowboat and dig for treasure.

I would lie on the floor in the living room and pretend gravity had reversed. I ‘walked’ around on the ceilings from room to room trying to decide how I would make lunch or avoid light fixtures, and stepping over the doorways. You couldn’t go outside of course, unless you were swinging along the fence top.

Once outer space got you, you were doomed.

If you look at a door and can imagine a hundred ways that door could be different, your imagination is working, too.

Frame a black car with color wash…

Will you look forward or backward?

Doorway to inner worlds…

Every door leads to another door…which will you open next?

A person with a wild imagination and the ability to express it is a person living a very rich life. Whether in words or fabric or gymnastics or music, with flowers or a blowtorch, the release of the thing within his heart creates beauty.

In all fairness, an imagination is not easily harnessed and can, on occasion, take you on journeys unexpected. If it frightens you, you could be tempted to close the door on it before understanding what it was trying to say. If it fascinates, you could be pulled into its vortex never to be heard from again, endlessly wandering among the paint pots.

If your child enjoys the wrapping paper as much as what it contained, her imagination has doubled your gift.

Watch this child. She sees the infinite possibility in things.

Or, you know, she could just be weird.

I may be the only child who ever sat and played with dust motes, but I doubt it.

Perhaps I am the only one who will admit it. (There’s always the comment box below if you feel inclined to share.)

On a completely empty, uneventful, and deliciously boring summer morning I sat on the living room floor, staring through a sunbeam.

It came slanting in through the window and wasn’t going to stay long. For whatever reason, I slapped my hand onto the carpet and watched a large puff of dust swirl up into the air.

You could only see it in the sunbeam. Beyond it, the air appeared perfectly clear.

I watched them swirl as my hands passed around them, riding air currents. Another slap to the floor, and the sunbeam was thick with dancing specks.

The first thought was simple enough: snowflakes. This must be what it looks like when snow falls. At least, it did in my swirly snow globe. I did not see snow actually falling until my 30s.

The next thought wasn’t nearly as nice: Whoa! I’m breathing that! Every inhale is putting these little guys in my nose, down my throat and into my lungs! I can’t even see them and they’re getting into my mouth!


I dashed outside, deep breathing the fresh air and wiping at my eyes and face.

I gave a little cough, just to clear things out.

That was a close call! I practically suffocated on the living room floor!

The next morning, I gathered my two little sisters around the sunbeam.

They watched as I made the specks float in patterns.

And then I fulfilled the eldest sisters’ duty by carefully explaining that this was what formed all of the boogers in their nose.

Instant respect.

Also, we played in The Backyard for the rest of that summer.

Release your dazzle.

Dance is for Life

The ladies curtsey. The gentlemen bow.

“Everybody forward and back!”

A banjo picks up the Virginia Reel that will take our class on to new heights of social cooperation and gender tolerance.

When you have five kids, you serve a life sentence volunteering in their elementary school.

Let’s just say I took my “job” in the music department pretty seriously after a while.

If you can get a fifth grade boy to take a fifth grade girl’s hand for even that one small moment of sashay, you have achieved a major accomplishment.

My goal: to carry these kids beyond the worry of social norms and into the pride of performing as a group.  To show them how the collective movement in a dance makes something much bigger than the pieces that are themselves.

Why a school district would overlook the obvious life skills involved in learning different forms of music is beyond me. It’s math, physical ed, manners, focus, self-esteem building, creative process, and team-work skills.

But it’s cleverly disguised as fun.

The students are hopping and turning around large straw hats on the floor.

We are dancing the Mexican Hat Dance.  The hat provides a buffer between rowdy partners that will fail altogether once we start the Chicken Dance.

What a great excuse to move in the middle of a highly structured day.  As the lessons progress, the random sillies and day’s frustrations make way for body awareness and timing.  They feel the rhythms and steps slowly remove tension from mind and body.

And they like it!

Buffalo Gals is the next step up towards square dancing. Only it’s in a circle.  A wagon wheel actually.  The Virginia Reel is square dancing in two lines.

Someday I would like to graduate to actually dancing in a square.  It takes more practice than the teacher’s schedule ever gave me and so after fifteen years I still don’t know how to do it.  But give me the chorus to Buffalo Gals and our kids will rock that wagon wheel.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOhhhhh Macarena.  Seriously.  How is this dance still living?

We do the Electric Slide, the YMCA, your basic wedding reception dances.  The kids may as well have a nicely rounded education. If you can’t form a Conga line you are missing out.

We hold onto the person in front of us by the shoulders, not the waist, and I’m lucky they aren’t pulling shirts off backs as they centipede around the room.

Thankfully, the Bunny Hop allows for more individuality.

I try to have them make baby bunny hops, not giant rabbit from hell hops.

It doesn’t always sink in.

Here’s another favorite of mine: the Limbo Rock.  You dance it at luaus and who in So Cal is not going at some point in his life to one of those birthday parties?

I love this one because it is the great equalizer dance.  You have the line backers, the track stars, the class jocks who are way too cool to take these dances seriously.

Then you have the little guys.  The computer techies, the quiet fellows who are taking this all in and thinking somewhere in the back of their minds, “I am so finally going to impress a girl!”

And you are SO rooting for them!  The Limbo is their shining moment.

As the Great Danes crash going under that stick, the Chihuahuas are popping under with attitude and coming up to cheers.

By the end of the school year, I was making up hula dances to Lilo and Stitch and doing Native American Rain Dances complete with ribbon wands, bongo drums and a medicine man wig.

I loved my job.

Natural Selection

Maybe it was a middle child thing.

Maybe it was a subtle effort to thin the herd.

Natural selection.

She naturally selected the child who had to go.

And she did it with such an innocent angel face.

The hour before bedtime takes only second place to the hour before dinner time as the most cringe-worthy, wretched time of day in the life of a stay-at-home mom.

The kids are by turn, grumpy, hyper, whiny, messy, and clingy.

And that includes the Hubby.

I was just hanging on for fifteen more minutes.

I’m telling you. If you ever want to bless a mother, give her sleep.

This particular evening, five kids were running amok in the den, clean, fed, and jammied up, in direct defiance of the upcoming bedtime.

These weren’t little toddlers, these peeps went from kindergarten through high school.

But fifteen minutes of free time in a whole day must be used to full potential.

Middle child was lounging on the sofa, fiddling with a long pink scarf.

She dangled it over the back of the couch, and said, “Here, fishy fishy fishy!”

Low man on the totem pole, and eager to be included youngest child, decided to be the fish.

Of course.

Up to the bait crawled Little Man.

He obligingly bit the end of the scarf.

And middle child reeled him in.

The girl’s no rookie.

She knows if you don’t yank the line and set the hook, your fish gets away.

With a mighty yank, the scarf whipped right out of the fish’s mouth.

Along with it came one of the fish’s front teeth, sailing across the room and hitting the wall with a tiny “plink”.

Everyone took a collective inhale.

I came running as the screaming began.

Everyone in the room was screaming but Little Man.

It took a minute to register the blood pouring from his mouth, his puzzled face, and the horrified looks of the witnesses.

Across the room was a single bloody tooth.

In his mouth was his other front tooth, wobbling half in and half out.

This is not a job for sissies.

And you’d better believe I already had our family dentist on speed dial.

We plopped the rogue tooth into a cup of milk. I placed a wet ice-filled cloth on Little Man’s mouth. Hubby cleaned up the blood and sent everyone to bed.

Our dentist, bless his big, expensive heart, answered his emergency line from a family dinner in a restaurant somewhere. I explained the situation in a slightly high-pitched voice.

This wonderful man met me a half hour later at his dark, closed offices and plopped Little Man into a giant exam chair.

He was kind and gentle and patient.

Little Man held my hand and waited like a champ for 45 minutes while the dentist removed his last front tooth and dug around, making sure there were no leftover bits of tooth in his poor mangled gums.

We weren’t charged for this.

Years of loyalty from a big family, maybe.

Possibly we had already paid for his family dinner out.

Now you know why Little Man is missing his front teeth in every photo for four years straight.

And why middle child is smiling like that.

She is still pretty certain that three children was plenty and enough.

But let’s all be glad Little Man tops her by a good eight inches today.

Who’s the fishy now?

Sibling Riflery

It’s rough being the youngest child.

You believe everything your siblings tell you, go along with all their ideas, and volunteer to drive their get-away car.

You spend your whole life wanting to be cool like them.

It never occurs to you to question why they would make you stand outside the secret clubhouse, coming up with a million passwords that aren’t the right one, while they hold a tea party inside.

Oh wait, wrong set of siblings.

My kids spent a lot of afternoons out in the backyard, trying to entertain themselves.

Instead of driving my kids all day to swimming lessons, soccer practice, piano recitals, and FFA competitions, I sent them outside with the encouraging statement, “Stop destroying the house, and go find something to do!”

Then I locked the door like my mama taught me.

Just kidding.

Sort of.

It’s just that I already had all of those things in my own yard. A pool. A trampoline. A couple of big climbing trees. A swing set. A garden. Toys, balls, bikes, a fort, chalk, paint, tables, chairs… chickens for crying out loud.

And enough siblings to form any sport team required to stay outside and play.

Even then, they would sneak into the garage and bring out tools of mass destruction.

It’s not like they didn’t have plenty of opportunities to stretch those budding imaginations.

But the thing is, they had a pecking order.

And even though the youngest child could look into the henhouse and say, “Well, at least I have it over you guys!”, it was a sorry and permanent situation.

It was the hour before dinner time.

The witching hour, I called it.

The kids have run out of entertainment ideas and are reduced to coming to the kitchen door every two minutes to see how dinner is coming along and to tattle on each other and to get a 52nd drink of water.

My eyes were glazing over, standing at the stove.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.

So when the screaming began, it took me a minute to register who it was, where it was coming from, and the exact level of problem it was declaring.

Thankfully, I registered just enough to turn off the burners before racing out the door.

Middle child had tried to bump off youngest child.

This wasn’t the first or last time.

Middle child had never forgotten her temporary taste of being the “family baby”.

Her two little brothers had bumped her out of position and I think she considered them more or less expendable.

She was only playing.


There may or may not have been bumping involved.

We had a fat, knotted rope hanging from the tree beside our house.

She helped her baby brother climb up on it, hanging from a big knot, and was pushing him.

“Swing like Tarzan does!” she told him, “Here’s your vine!”

Tarzan was two and a half.

“One!” she said, with a little push.

“Two!” and she pushed him a little higher.

“Three!” as she gave a mighty heave.

Which may have ended well when he came off the vine.

Except she was swinging him out directly over the concrete patio instead of the dirt piled every-single-where-else.

Let’s see.

From the baseball sized egg sprouting from his forehead, a concussion seemed logical. The wind knocked out of him. Various scrapes and bruises predicted. Massive headache incoming.

And his little arm was broken.

We all did some crying.

Tarzan got a green cast.

And really, she would have flown under the radar if the following story hadn’t occurred.

Tune in Friday.

When Your Second-Grader Gets Suspended

All of my years of volunteering and parenting, all of my years deep breathing in the hall closet while my kids watched Sesame Street, had prepared me for this one moment in time.

The following phone call was left out of my child’s CUM file.

(That’s short for ‘cumulative records’, the master file that follows your child’s school career from kindergarten through graduation and holds their rap sheet.)

But it explains everything.


“Hello?” I said, putting down laundry and happy for the distraction.

“Hello Mrs X, this is Mr A, the school principal.”

“Oh! Hi! Are you calling about the project we’re working on?” Big smile.

“Um, no, not this time. I need to discuss your youngest son with you, if you have a minute.”

“Of course.” I sat down.

“It seems that there’s some trouble. I took a phone call from a parent today who is very upset.”


“She said that her son came home from school today and told her that while he and your son were playing in the sand box during lunch, your son told him he had a knife in his pocket.”

“What?” I said, “My son doesn’t even own one.”

“Well,” continued the principal, “I called your son into the office and asked him about it. He admitted right away that he had told the other boy that, and then reached into his pocket and handed me…nail clippers. He said he was only pretending while they played.”

“Oh. That sounds right.”

“I explained to the mother that your child did not have a pocket-knife, he had little nail clippers. She pointed out that claiming to have a switchblade on campus is unacceptable.”

“If my son had said he was packing a light-saber, would that have been an issue?”

He quickly finished his speech, “The consequences for bringing a weapon to school are a parent/principal conference and an automatic three day suspension.”

“Excuse me?” I said. Perhaps with a little edge to it.

“Mrs X, I was very clear in my discussion with this concerned parent, but she insists that your son be punished for claiming to have a dangerous and threatening item at school.”

Then there was a very pregnant pause.

This was my cue.

Reading between the lines, I saw him caught between a rock and a hard spot.

Now, this most excellent principal knows my entire family and he has my respect in return. He knows, before even talking to my son, that the kid wouldn’t have a clue about bringing a knife to school, and that he couldn’t harm a fly if he had to.

I know that he knows that suspending my kid is ludicrous.


I also know that he knows what that crazy hyper-involved hyper-ventilating helicopter mom will do if I decide to challenge this situation with the righteous wrath of a…crazy hyper-involved hyper-ventilating helicopter mom.

Had she checked her own son’s pockets for imaginary weapons?

Our most excellent principal could see this going south in a very bad way if I were to get all eye-twitchy over it.

“Well,” I finally said, “Mr A, just go ahead and make her happy. Maybe it’s silly what my kid did, but it won’t hurt him to know that even little fibs are a bad idea.”

His relief was palpable over the phone line.

“Oh, Mrs X,” he said, “I have to fill out a suspension form, but I’m going to write very clearly that your son was innocent and exactly why.”

“He can skip school for the next three days, he’ll enjoy the holiday.”

“It has to stay in his permanent school records, I’m afraid.”

I laughed.

“Well, Mr A, then so be it. The kid goes where no sibling has ever gone before him, and that’s a fact. I don’t think his checkered past will affect his chances of becoming a neurosurgeon.”

“Thank you Mrs X.”

“Have a good week. See you on Monday.”